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Monday, November 26, 2007

Signing off . . . for now.

Well, given that it's been almost a month since my last post here, I am simply making official something that has been a reality for some time now. I have a lot of things in my life at the moment that are absorbing my time and my energy. I'm managing to see about one live production every three weeks, and, whether it is bad luck or simply me being in a bad mood, they didn't impress me enough to warrant being written about here.
Movies? Haven't seen many new ones in a while. Persepolis is good. I saw that at a film festival, though, so I have no idea when that will be showing on a screen near you. One of my favorite movies keeps popping up on cable, lately, and that's Quigley Down Under. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Other than that, though, I don't find I have much too talk about lately.
Books? I've started about six, but textbook readings keep interfering with me getting much more than about a chapter in on any of those.
So, it seems that the only thing left for me to do here is the occasional rant, and, right now, I just don't have the time.
So, I'm closing up shop on the old blog, here, at least for the next few months. Until I return, I leave you with one of my favourite Rowan Atkinson sketches:

Til we meet again, piggies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Tips for Grown-Ups

Ahhh, Halloween. Hallowe'en. All Hallow's Even. The night of the year when adult women in America are allowed and encouraged to dress in flimsy adult-oriented facsimiles of popular icons. I'm particularly fond of the pirate costumes, but I'm a little ashamed to admit that the "Hermione Granger" costume has grown on me somewhat. No, I'm just kidding. I'm not in the least bit ashamed to admit that.
It is also an excuse (as are most holidays, sporting events, weddings, and children's birthday parties) for adults to drink to blind excess. If you want to do that, that's none of my business. Though, I am inclined to think that if your life is so unsatisfying that you need to periodically escape into an alcohol-induced haze, perhaps it would be more productive to find a hobby or take an interesting class at the local community college. However, I am not a self-help guru. I am more of a don't-make-your-problems-my-problems guru.
Anyway, if your intent is to get blitzed tonight (or any other night), here are a couple of things to keep in mind. When you are drunk, you are really only tolerable to other drunk people. The cashiers at the 24-Hour Taco Bell are not as amused by your continuously ordering a Big Mac as you might think. I guarantee that they aren't paid enough to deal with your crap, either. Just bear that in mind, when you stumble out of the bars and into the civilized world.
Second, "I was drunk, dude" is not an acceptable excuse for bad behavior. Alcohol impairs your judgment but does not absolve you of any responsibility for actions resulting from that impaired judgment. Anybody who lets you off the hook because you were "so hammered" is enabling personality flaws that could (and should) get you into major trouble someday.
Finally, if you're going to drink, don't drive. If you're going to drive, don't drink. Now, don't worry, I'm not going to go all soft here and tell you that I'm just trying to save your life. I'm not. I'm trying to save mine.
My life and the lives of my family and the small circle of people who manage not to irritate me are of far greater value to me than your life or what you view as your personal freedoms. Don't drink and drive. I have a cell phone, if I see someone driving who I think might be impaired, I call them in to the police. Don't think that because you're wearing a SpongeBob Squarepants costume I'm going to cut you any slack tonight.
As an addendum to the above tip, let me just add that you should value your designated driver. Anyone who's willing to put up with your drunk dumb ass in their car for an evening is a candidate for sainthood.
I certainly wouldn't do it.
Happy Halloween, piglets!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Goodbye, Sir Lancelot

Robert Goulet passed away today at the age of 73.
He will be missed but always remembered.
Here's Mr. Goulet performing "Soliloquy" from Carousel:

Friday, October 26, 2007

At the Movies: For the Bible Tells Me So

A good friend of mine and much-beloved Denver theatre performer, Carla Kotrc, suggested this film to me, and I am very grateful to her for the recommendation.
For The Bible Tells Me So is a moving documentary that attempts to reconcile homosexuality with the Bible. Believe it or not, it can be done.
Obviously, this documentary has an agenda (most good ones do), but it is surprisingly "un-preachy" as it examines the stories of several Christian families with gay children, including the family of former Congressman and presidential nominee Dick Gephardt. (The trailer, which I've attached below, gives the impression that the film is a bit more heavy-handed than it actually is.)
Intelligent, witty, and thought-provoking, For The Bible Tells Me So helps to show how the "vs." can be removed from the relationship between homosexuality and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
While I'd like this film to be seen by a few of the sign-waving Dobson followers I have encountered over the last few years, it might take some doing to get them to let go of a belief system that is so ingrained. Still, I know many Christians and Jews for whom their church or synagogue's take on the issue of homosexuality has sparked a crisis of faith. This film could serve to alleviate that crisis a bit.
The Denver run of this film just got extended through November 2nd at the Starz Film Center in the Tivoli on the Auraria Campus, but that still doesn't leave much time to see it before it goes, and, with independent films like this, it's hard to tell when they'll be released on DVD. You'll have to keep an eye on their website.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We have seen the enemy and it is us

I can't believe it's the 20th already and this is my first October blog. Like I said in my last entry, I have a lot on my plate at the moment. I have managed to see a few shows, but they all either fell into the category of being closing night or one-night-only performances (and what good is recommending a show after it's too late for you to see it?), or, as I alluded to in my last entry, just not very good.
I am still wrestling with what to do about making recommendations of shows that I have not seen yet, because, as I have seen a few times over the last few months, a good director, talented cast members, and great script do not necessarily a great show make. Often in theatre classes, we are told that the director is the person primarily responsible for the vision and direction of the show. In practice, that is not always the case.
There's a show running right now that I really want to try to see tonight, and, if I make that (there's no guarantee), and it's worth writing about here (the buzz is pretty darn good), I will do just that tonight or tomorrow morning.
Today's blog, however, is inspired by the paparazzo with the flattened foot. It appears that Britney Spears ran over the foot of one of the paparazzi Thursday afternoon. Now this story came to my attention because it actually made the television news here in Denver! There's only 30 minutes for news, including commercials, but we certainly can't go one night without hearing about what Britney Spears did today, can we?
Well, normally this info would go into the "I-don't-give-a-flying-frick" category, but I overheard someone talking about the story in the supermarket check-out line yesterday, commenting on how the paparazzo "got what he deserved," and "they're all just a bunch of low-lifes," etc. Then this individual went into a tirade about how Spears was "just a trashy little tramp with no talent, anyway." The irony of these observations were punctuated by the copy of US magazine in the opinion-giver's grocery basket.
Hey, I do not hold the paparazzi in any great esteem, but, let's not kid ourselves, nobody puts their foot in harm's way to take a picture unless that picture has some value to somebody.
I don't think much of Miss Spears as a talent, either, but she won't go away unless we all let her.
As long as copies of US, People, and those other rags fly off the shelves whenever there are new unflattering photos of Spears, she's going to have a bunch of tools with cameras running around her car, and Adele Arakawa is going to have to tell us about it when the Britster backs over one of them.
Nobody is giving us anything that we aren't asking for, at least collectively. It may primarily be morbid curiosity that will sell Britney Spears's new album, but a sale is a sale, and if her album is selling, she's going to stick around.
So, if you don't like Britney Spears, don't buy her album. If you don't like the paparazzi, stop buying the magazines that contain their photographs.
Recently, when Daniel Radcliffe (of the Harry Potter films) was performing in Equus in the West End, he came up with a solution to the paparazzi problem at the stage door. Every night after the show, he would walk out wearing the same hat, the same shirt, and the same jacket. The paparazzi found that they could not sell anything beyond the first few night's worth of pictures, because they all looked the same. Eventually, the paparazzi stopped meeting young Mr. Radcliffe at the stage door. So, there you have it. If the paparazzi can't sell their photos, they will go away.
Think Britney Spears is a talentless hack? Then just look away. If MTV wants to put her on the VMAs again, don't watch. If enough people follow your lead, MTV will not make that mistake again. (Maybe we can even get them to start playing music videos again!)
Some people like to get into a big "chicken or the egg" debate about whether the media gives us what we want or tells us what we want, but, for me, there's no debate. I'm not a chicken or an egg, thank you very much. I think for myself, and I consume what I want to consume.
The media is not to blame for what's on T.V., what's on at the movies, what's playing on the radio, or what's on the newsstands. We are.
I read a brief letter to the editor the other day from a woman who was complaining about the fact that the Disney Channel kept making shows about witches, and how she, as a Christian mother, was finding it difficult to locate appropriate shows for her children.
Now, hold the phone, many of you out there may be bracing yourselves for a tirade from me about witches vs. the Christian church, but that's not where I'm headed.
The fact is, this woman had an opinion, and she took the time to make sure it was heard. She took a stand, and whether I agree with her or not, I have to admire the fact that she's sticking up for her principles.
What did you do for your principles today?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rough Month

You may have noticed that I've been a bit scarce here in cyberspace of late. There are a number of factors. Primarily, I'm attending school full time and working full time. I decided to go back and pursue that highly overvalued (and overpriced) piece of paper that says that I am an educated individual. (Because you all know what an uninformed dolt I am without it.) Yes, that's right. I compromised my principles and am now attending an institute of "higher learning" that currently values my attendance over my education. Oy.
So, not only am I not finding a lot of time to blog, I am also not finding a lot of time to go out and see shows to blog about, either.
Another factor is that I am presently feeling a bit foolish. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I have begun to promote shows here that I have not seen yet. For me, that has presented a risky proposition. If I write here about a show that I liked, then you see it and don't like it, I'm okay with it. I have no problem with you being wrong. If, however, I write about a show that I haven't seen yet, and it turns out to be, well, let's just say "below standard," then I feel that is a reflection upon my reputation. (Which, admittedly, isn't presently what it once was or what it will soon be again.)
This month, that has happened a couple of times at least, and, frankly, it's starting to tick me off.
Still, I want to promote Denver-area theatre as much as I can, and, since so many shows have limited runs, advance recommendations seem to be about the only way to get the word out on these productions.
What to do? What to do?
I don't want to have to add the caveat, "I haven't seen it yet, so don't blame me if it blows," to every advanced recommendation that I make, but I also don't want to steer you wrong. It's bad enough when I waste money on a bad show. I hate for you to as well.
I'll have to ponder this one for a bit longer, I'm afraid.
In the meantime, look at this:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

At the Movies: Superbad

Those of you who know me apart from this blog know that I have a pretty full schedule these days between school and work, so I don't find that I have a whole lot of time for doing other things like maintaining my blog (sorry, I'll make it up to you all, I promise) and getting out to see theatre or movies.
The one film that I have seen in the last few weeks is one that I had been anticipating for some time:


At first glance, this film is your basic raunchy teenage sex comedy, but, I've got to tell you, this one runs just a little bit deeper. You'd never guess it from the sophomoric language and crude humor, but this is a quest story.
Our three "knights" are Seth (Jonah Hill), Evan (the brilliant Michael Cera from Arrested Development), and Fogell (newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Their "grail" is, well, it's a teenage sex comedy, so you figure it out, but it means something different to each of them. Along the way, the bond of male friendship, sacrifice, and the fear of the unknown are explored in a way very much unlike anything I've ever seen. Mostly this is because I was so busy laughing at the absurd hi jinks of this film that the deeper themes did not begin to resonate with me until much later.
I'm a little reluctant to give a blanket recommendation in this movie because the language is so coarse and provocative and the storyline is so raunchy. Still, if you can get past that (and I recommend at least trying to do so) this is a really terrific and clever film.

I want to apologize again that my blogging has diminished slightly (sounds like a medical problem, doesn't it?), but I'm getting my schedule worked out a little better, so I hope to have some more fun stuff to blog about very soon.
Also, I'm working on a little surprise for you all. You're gonna love it, trust me.
Thanks, my faithful cherubs.
I will have more for you very soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No Better Tribute

No, this is not a 9/11 tribute, technically. This is an earlier performance from a sporting event. Still, on this sixth anniversary of the terrible tragedy that occurred on American soil, I can think of no better tribute to the fallen and to the heroes than our own national anthem, and I can think of no one better to sing it than Kristin Chenoweth.
Set your work aside for a moment, turn up your speakers, and just . . . listen.

Anna Fuerstenberg

I met a remarkable artist and theatre professional this weekend.
Anna Fuerstenberg, a woman who has worked in the theatre industry since elementary school is visiting Metropolitan State College of Denver as a guest artist this summer. In addition to directing her own adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities (which is opening in October and is sizing up to be one of the most unique and innovative productions in Denver this year), Ms. Fuerstenberg will be performing her own one-woman show, Saidye's Millenium: The 150 year-old oracle from 2057 A.D. on Saturday night for one performance only.
Here's the press from Metro:

Playwright/actress to serve as guest artist, perform one-woman show

Noted playwright and actress Anna Fuerstenberg will be visiting Metro State for one month to perform her one-woman show and work with the students in three theatre courses. She will also direct her adaptation of “A Tale of Two Cities,” the Theatre program’s first production of the fall semester.

Born in a refugee camp outside Stuttgart, Germany, Fuerstenberg came to Montreal, Canada as a child. When she won a scholarship to the Montreal Repertory Theatre School, her life’s work began. Fuerstenberg’s plays and film scripts have been produced in Canada and abroad and she has directed theatre in several languages and on several continents.

Her one-woman show, “Saidye’s Millenium,” is a 150-year-old Yiddish woman’s humorous perspective and insight about her life experiences on planet Earth.

The performance is set for Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the King Center Recital Hall. A public reception will follow. General admission tickets are $5 and free to Metro State students with valid ID. For reservations call 303-556-2296

Piglets, this is an opportunity. After ten minutes of listening to this woman tell about her experiences, I was completely re-vitalized in my affection for the art of live theatre. (Fortunately, I got to hang out with her for another ninety-or-so minutes after that as well.)
Whether you're a veteran of this business, a theatre aficionado, or an aspiring young thespian, I think that this will be an evening well-spent.
This show is not to be missed. That's "ntbm" for you text-happy youngsters. OMG! (lol.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hungry Like The Wolf: Erin's Gourmet Sandwiches

I'm always up for trying a new sandwich place for lunch, and I found a great one earlier this week in Erin's Gourmet Sandwiches located in the Republic Plaza Food Court on the 16th Street Mall. (Basically 16th and Tremont.)
Erin's is the first Irish sandwich shop in Colorado, and it was started by three honest-to-goodness Irish guys. John Costelloe joined forces with Celtic Tavern partners Noel Hickey and Terry Brennan to bring this unique endeavor to the Mile High City.
According to Costello quoted here from The Celtic Connection), "The difference between an Irish sandwich and an American sandwich is the bread and filling. Much of the sandwich in America is bread, where in Ireland the emphasis is on the filling."
I myself recommend the Brennan's Chicken Salad sandwich. The chipotle mayo gives it a kick worthy of the high-steppin' Michael Flatley.
Of course, you can build your own sandwich from Erin's fresh ingredients, some of which -- the cheese, specifically -- is imported directly from Ireland.
Cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches ("Toasties") and wraps make this a sandwich shop to please just about everybody.
When it comes to spending your hard-earned dollars, buying local should be high on your list, and Erin's Gourmet Snadwiches makes that decision a real no-brainer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


This morning, for the second time in three days, I heard the sickening sound of brakes squealing followed by the crushing of fiberglass and metal.
A "fender-bender" as it were.
I didn't happen to be looking out the window when either of the accidents happened, but it was pretty easy to tell what had happened in each of the cases:
1) One or both of the drivers were driving too fast.
2) One or both of the drivers were impatiently attempting to turn across traffic or change lanes or perform some other maneuver that would have been significantly easier to perform by applying the brake first and waiting a few seconds rather than pressing the accelerator and "beat" the other drivers on the road.
3) Cell phones and other distractions were involved.

Luckily, no one appeared to have been hurt. (The real pain will come later from the insurance companies.) Still, between these two accidents, roughly seven people -- who had been in something of a hurry to get where they were going --were held up for roughly an hour to an hour-and-a-half before they could continue on their way to their destinations.
Piglets, if you want the whole spiel again, you will find it here, but I will re-iterate. Driving fast and recklessly does not save you as much time as you think, and, in some cases, can make you even later. Plan ahead. Leave early. And, if you're running late, then be late. I guarantee you that you won't make up the time on the road.
>The cell phone is a marvelous invention. It is. I find mine to be terribly convenient, and I feel very secure knowing that my eighteen-year-old baby sister has her cell phone with her as she begins her freshman year of college in Boulder.
I have also found the cell phone useful for calling ahead to let someone know that I'm running late, or to ask my roommate if I should stop by the grocery store on the way home for toilet paper or other essentials. If, however, you are using your cell phone in your car for other than a few seconds at a red light, you are endangering yourself and the others around you on the road.
>Turn signals aren't a courtesy, they are an essential part of inter-driver communication.
>If you like the color and shape of your car, give the person ahead of you a little distance.

Come on cherubs, you know this.
Whether you believe that we are what we are as a result of evolution or intelligent design or Divine will, you have to admit one thing:
We're smarter than this.

The life you save just might be your own, or, more importantly, mine.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Go To The Hills . . .

Speaking of old chestnuts . . .
Actually, the only reason I ever complain about "yet another" production of The Sound of Music, is the propensity of community theatres to pool together a bunch of cute kids and do it badly.
This is not something that I think anyone need fear from the upcoming Labor-Day weekend production by the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge, Colorado. First, the Backstage has a stellar record (under Artistic Directors like the incomparable Wendy Moore, the innovative Jeremy Cole, and the current masterful A.D.'ship of Chris Willard) for quality live entertainment in the Rockies.
Second, this production is helmed by my friend J. Scott Lubinski, the director of last year's stunning The Robber Bridegroom at Metro State College of Denver. (I may have mentioned it once or twice.)
Additionally, this production will feature the two leads from that Bridegroom production, Ben Cowhick and Courtney Capek (remember that name, I'm telling you) as Rolf and Liesl.
The Riverwalk outdoor amphitheatre, nestled in the heart of the Rockies, is a truly exceptional place to watch a live musical, and this promises to be an exceptional production.
Look, too, for Breckenridge-area favorites Glen Graber, Gail Westwood, and my buddy Steve Collins to round out the talented ensemble.
The Sound of Music runs only one weekend, so make your plans now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

School's In

It's that time of year: millions of students, young and old, descend upon campuses of higher learning around the world with shiny new backpacks, packages of ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils, a full rainbow of highlighter pens and criminally over-priced textbooks. (Honestly! $100 for a paperback textbook less than a half-inch thick! Is anybody regulating this?)
What this means for we aficionados of theatre is an opportunity to see a selection of plays and musicals outside of the usual commercially-viable community productions performed by young and hungry thespians who haven't even yet begun to be jaded by the idea of balancing a day job with yet another audition for Grease or I Hate Hamlet.
You see, most universities and colleges have a budget for production that is independent (somewhat) of ticket revenue. Since most schools make their productions available to their students at no cost (apart from the multitude of mysteriously-acronymed fees), they are less concerned with choosing shows that are proven commercially-viable old chestnuts. College theatre is an opportunity to see productions of those shows that we often hear about but seldom see because of a (justifiable) timidity on the part of artistic directors who actually have to ensure that they can make their nut.
Additionally, a ticket to a college production can often be paid for with the booty found in the cushions of your living room couch. (Seriously! I once paid for a Metro State show with four unmatched buttons and half a Twix bar!)
So, in addition to checking the Colorado Theatre Guild website for upcoming theatre fare, don't forget to drop in on the websites for schools like Metro, CUs both Boulder and Denver, Colorado State, DU, UNC, and the numerous community colleges in our area. Admittedly, though, many of these schools are not as diligent as they could be about updating their performing arts calendars, so watch the local papers as well. It's not always as easy to find college shows as community theatre shows (almost none of the budget is spent on promotion outside of the campuses), but the extra effort in unearthing these shows is almost always well worth the trouble. I'll help out as much as I can, too, and, as always, feel free to use the comments sections here to promote upcoming productions and help me to spread the word.
Welcome back students, support local theatre, and, remember, nobody actually borrows a pen. Just kiss it goodbye and chalk up the good Karma points in your head.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Airtight Advice

The other day my best friend Billie Jo and I were walking through a parking lot when we saw a woman changing a flat tire. I started to walk over to see if I could be of any assistance, but just then I saw her give the "wave-off" to someone else who was offering help. She appeared to have everything quite in hand.
Billie Jo asked me if it looked like she needed any help, and I said, "No. It looks like she's got it under control, and it looks like she'd prefer not to be 'rescued' by anybody else."
Billie Jo then commented that she didn't know how to change a flat tire herself.
I guess maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. I think that I was about ten when my Dad first showed me which end of a lug wrench was which, but that rite of passage doesn't always happen for girls. I will spend this weekend giving Billie Jo a brief, hands-on tire-changing workshop, because I do not like the prospect that a mere puncture might leave my best friend stranded by the side of the road.
If you know how to change a tire, I highly suggest that you poll your "circle" (female and male) to make sure everyone knows how to use a jack, a lug wrench, and a tire gauge. If not, you should show them as soon as you can.
If you don't know how to change a tire, here are a couple of resources that may help you:
First, an article from Popular Mechanics magazine that I think is very useful and full of several helpful hints that even I didn't know about, and I've had a lot of flats.
Second, here's a video demonstration of tire-changing procedure from

If I may add something to these tutorials, I would like to say, too, that you should recognize when it's okay to try to change the tire yourself, and when it's better to call for roadside assistance. (AAA is reliable and inexpensive.) In heavy snow or rain or late at night in a questionable area are times when it is probably best to just sit in your car and wait for a professional with a tow-truck to arrive.

Be prepared. Be smart. Be safe.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Music: Dean Martin - Forever Cool

It's funny how at different points in my life I have found myself drawn to the music of different members of the Rat Pack. When I was in high school and feeling like a bit of an outsider, I most closely identified with Sammy Davis Jr. and "I Gotta Be Me."
In my "angry young man" phase (which, admittedly, I may not have quite cleared just yet) I was pulled by the alternately aggressive and mournful vocal stylings of Frank Sinatra and his, "as soon as I finish this song I'm gonna put somebody's head through a wall" attitude.
Now, though, as I'm finally (if reluctantly) beginning to accept myself as part of the adult world, I now feel most at home listening to Dino and his "lighter-than-air" and "devil-may-care" crooning.
Now, being a bit of a purist, I was a little reluctant about the new album, Forever Cool, released by Capitol Records that combines original tracks of Dean (a la Natalie Cole singing with Nat King Cole) with new recordings by contemporary artists like Chris Botti, Joss Stone, and Kevin Spacey. (Yes, that Kevin Spacey.)
Upon reflection, though, I realized that this was just the sort of thing that Dino would have done if he were still with us today. (Well, on earth. Dino's always with us, I believe.) Dean loved to sing with performers from all different backgrounds on his long-running television variety show, so it is perhaps fitting that he's been paired posthumously (and reverently) with the other artists on this album.
So I bought the album. I walked into a music store, grabbed the CD, and put my money on the counter. I didn't download it off the internet. You don't download Dean, you know?
Well, it's an amazing album, and I'd be hard-pressed to find a bad pairing for these "duets" (and, surprisingly enough, the two numbers with Kevin Spacey just might be my favorites. Time will tell.).
It's a great album to add to your Rat Pack collection or it's also a great CD to introduce yourself to the coolest man to ever hold a microphone, Dean Martin.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hungry Like the Wolf: Donuts!!!!

Hello, cherubs.
I just wanted to take a quick moment to throw a shout out to my favorite little donut shop in Denver:
Walton's Donuts, located at 6603 Leetsdale Drive, bakes up some of the best donuts I have tasted in a long, long time: old-fashioneds, raised, cake, you name it.
Plus, they have a couple of homemade-style breakfast sandwiches that put the fast-food counterparts to shame.
I myself have decided to incorporate more fruit into my diet, so I'm happy to say that they have an apple fritter to die for on their menu. (That counts. I'm sure it does.)
Walton's Donuts is in the little strip mall next to the 7-11 at Monaco and Leetsdale. They're open from 5am to 3pm Monday through Saturday, so stop in some morning and give them a try.
Just save a couple of the blueberry cake donuts for me. (Hey! More fruit!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Movies: Stardust

I took in an advanced screening of this movie last night, and I must say that it was everything that I expected it would be. I won't go so far as to call it a "rip-off," though there are a couple of threads on the IMDb boards that do just that.
A boy (Charlie Cox) with a mysterious background wants to impress a girl (Sienna Miller) by retrieving a fallen star for here from a magical land. The star is, in fact, a beautiful young woman (Claire Danes), and she is also pursued by a witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who wants to cut out her heart to achieve immortality.
By most movie standards, this is an unconventional plot, but for those of us into sci-fi and fantasy, it's a bit of the "same ol', same old."

However, I should also point out that this movie was also considerably more than I expected.
It is immeasurably clever in its dialogue and sight gags. It avoids melodrama and hokeyness. It even dodges most cliches, and, in so doing, elicits quite a few solid belly laughs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I think Stardust just might be the next Princess Bride. (And from me, that's really saying something.) There's no "Inigo Montoya" speech, but there are a few one-liners you'll be repeating to your friends afterwards.
In a summer sea of "so-so" adventure movies, this one is a breed apart. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to see it for free, but I'd pay to see it again.
Pulled the old "bait-and-switch" on you, didn't I? Well, it keeps me entertained, so I make no apologies.
For the still confused among you: I am recommending this movie. It opens this Friday. Go see it. It would be better, though, if you see a matinee show so that you can still squeeze in an evening performance of one of the currently running live theatrical shows here in town.
Among them:
PHAMALy's Urinetown: The Musical
The Avenue's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
NextStage's Assassins
Paragon's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Okay, pork chops. All for now. Support local theatre.

Friday, July 27, 2007

PHAMALy's Urinetown: #1 Show (tee-hee-hee)

I slipped in last night for the preview performance of PHAMALy's Urinetown: The Musical. What a treat!
Sometimes I think there is a tendency to regard PHAMALy productions as a bunch of disabled people singing and dancing and putting on a show, when I think it would be more accurate to describe it as a very talented and dedicated group of performers putting on a show, and, oh, by the way, they all have disabilities.
On the one hand, I think that it's great that PHAMALy gets as much media coverage as it does, because it sends the message to people with disabilities that possibilities exist. On the other hand, I wonder sometimes if so much of the media coverage comes about because a theatre company of people with disabilities is something of a "token" idea. Editors love the "human interest" element, so the media coverage is disproportionate to the coverage of other theatre companies in the area. (Can anyone tell me the last time that another theatre company got front page on the Post?)
Again, I do not wish to begrudge PHAMALy the exposure, but part of me wonders if the excessive coverage doesn't somewhat diminish the merit of the performance itself. To say "Regan Linton is a terrific actress in a wheelchair" almost sounds like more of a qualification than a description. Regan Linton is a terrific actress. Period. (Bit of a scene-stealer, too. My companion and I giggled everytime she came on stage.)
So I resolved myself to the idea that, if Urinetown was not up to the standard of any other theatre company that I would write about here, I wasn't going to devote a blog to the show. I felt that it would be a disservice to the integrity of the company.
And the truth is, while I am a big supporter of PHAMALy, and have enjoyed every show that I've seen them do, I was a bit reticent about the choice of Urinetown: The Musical for this particular company. After the cast list was announced, I found myself a bit unsure about whether everybody in the show was in quite the role that best suited their talents.
Add to that a bit of backstage drama to which I was privy (heh, heh,"privy"), and it is safe to say that I was not sure when I walked into the Space Theatre last night whether or not I was going to be wowed by what I saw. And "wow" was the make-it-or-break-it criterion for my mentioning it here.
Well, since you are all reading a blog called "PHAMALy's Urinetown: #1 Show (tee-hee-hee)," you have no doubt surmised that the "wows" were plentiful.
Kathleen Traylor will knock your socks off with "It's a Privilege to Pee." The choreography under Cindy Bray, Debbie Stark, and Teri Westerman has raised the bar for the company and the ensemble has cleared that bar with ease. (Well, maybe not with ease. Mark Dissette's perspiration, to borrow Regan Linton's description, looks like a special effect.) There is much to like, to love, about this show. If you're put off by the title, don't be. If you're unsure about the subject matter, get over it.
PHAMALy's Urinetown: The Musical gets a must-see from one of the most arrogant know-it-alls in the Denver theatre scene.
(Me. I'm talking about me. Try to keep up.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

At It Again

When I heard originally that Spotlight Theatre was going to be running Ray Cooney's hilarious farce, Run For Your Wife, back-to-back with its sequel, Caught In the Net, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Generate an audience for the inferior sequel by preceding it with the original. Spotlight artistic director Pat Payne, in addition to being a very clever director, has a real genius for marketing. In fact, I purchased my ticket for the sequel the very night that I saw Run For Your Wife because Pat shrewdly offered a discount for pre-sales.
I walked into the West Colfax E-vent Center last night, pre-sold ticket in hand, quite content with my bargain, and fully prepared to enjoy myself. It wasn't going to be as good as the original - sequels never are - but I was sure that it would be fun.
Well, like the old saying goes, "when you presume, you make a pres out of u and . . ." no, that's not right . . . Well, anyway, Caught In The Net is far from inferior. It is at least as brilliant as its predecessor if not more.
I don't know how to explain this phenomenon, except to hypothesize that all parties involved must have simply "caught their stride." Playwright Ray Cooney has raised the level of hilarity to almost breakneck levels. Director Pat Payne has honed the comic timing down to a razor-sharp edge. Bernie Cardell now so embodies the manic, quick-witted, polygamist John Smith, that I seriously hope Bernie is having his blood pressure monitored off-stage. Clint Heyn's much put-upon Stanley Gardner is at a whole new plane of zany desperation. Bonnie Greene takes her "straight-man" routine to all new levels, and Haley Johnson is even more amazing than last time. (I'll admit that I have almost no objectivity where Haley is concerned, but see the show for yourself, and I'm sure you'll agree.) Throw in Brad Greening and Chesney Oxenham as the two teens Smith and Gardner are trying desperately to keep apart and Bob Leggett as Gardner's senile and lecherous father, and you've got a show that doesn't simply tickle your ribs, but very nearly breaks them.
You do not need to have seen Run For Your Wife to thoroughly enjoy Caught in the Net, but there are still two opportunities to see Wife if you haven't already. See the website for details.
As if I could recommend this show any higher, Pat Payne, a regular reader of this blog, is offering a special offer for the Saturday night (tonight) performance. Mention "One Big Bad Wolf" and tickets are just $10!
Don't I take care of you, piglets?
Unless I hear differently from Pat, this offer is for TONIGHT'S PERFORMANCE ONLY, so shake your curly little tails and get down to the E-vent Center tonight.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ever Just the Same, Ever a Surprise

When one goes to see a community production of Beauty and the Beast, like Front Range Music Theatre’s production at the Lincoln Center which I saw last night, one has a pretty good idea of what to expect: an enchanting and fun musical fairy tale.
There will undoubtedly be a beautiful and plucky actress with a cheery uplifting songbird voice to give life to the lovely bookworm heroine, Belle. In this case, that role is filled sublimely by Michelle Anton, whose alter ego is that of a first-grade school teacher in Longmont.(My first-grade teacher was a large, ill-tempered woman named Eula Mae Morris who used to hit me with a ruler. I got hornswoggled.)
You can also reasonably expect that there will be a dynamic ensemble of funny and delightful characters. Front Range’s production definitely does, particularly in the personages of Jim Miller as the amorous French candelabrum, Lumiere (No, it is “candelabrum.” Look it up.), Lloyd A. Norton as the befuddled and charming Maurice, Scott Gagnon as the egocentric Gaston, Bryan Bell as the cowardly but devoted LeFou (in addition to being the choreographer), Jalyn Courtenay Webb as the mothering Mrs. Potts, and many, many more, including a couple of my favorite people to watch on stage in the chorus, Kendra Jacobs and Aaron Quintana. (Aaron also assistant choreographed.)
You can also expect that the community production will absolutely break the bank to supply high production values like amazing costumes, show-stopping dance numbers (forged, if I may remind you, by Bryan and Aaron), impressive sets, and a number of clever affects, including performers who actually fly off-stage.
What you might not expect is to see that the other title character isn’t played simply as an alternately snarling and mugging cartoon. You might be surprised to see a character rather than a caricature, a portrait of a deeply troubled and sensitive creature whose irascibility and brutality mask a lost soul on the brink of despair. You might not expect to be so moved by this man/monster’s internal transformation as he sings the beautiful and sad, “If I Can’t Love Her.” You might not expect to see that, but I did. Of course, I knew before-hand that the role was going to be portrayed by my good friend and one of this area’s favorite performers, David Ambroson.
Fun for the whole family, and running a scant two weekends, you don’t want to miss this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Plan Ahead

Hey, time to be proactive!

I expect that the following two upcoming shows will sell out:

PHAMALy's Urinetown: The Musical opening July 27th.

NextStage's Assassins opening August 4th.

Avoid disappointment and get your tickets for these A.S.A.P.

Just looking out for ya, pork chops.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dog Days of Summer Theatre

"Hot enough for ya?"
I used to try to come up with a clever comeback whenever someone would say that to me.
Now I just kick them in the shins.

Well, you know what's fun to do on a nice warm summer evening? Go see a show!

Here's a few to look at this week:

Beauty and the Beast - Front Range Music Theatre
Henry double-nominee David Ambroson as the Beast.

I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change - The Avenue Theater
I'm hearing lots of good stuff about this one, piglets.

Not Now, Darling - Miner's Alley Playhouse
I already told you about this one, kids. you know I don't like to repeat myself. (Okay, yes I do.)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Paragon Theatre
Always good stuff coming out of Paragon. I'm anxious to see their take on the classic.

Caught In The Net - Spotlight Theatre
Got-2-B LOL sequel to Run For Your Wife. I'm going Friday night. I'll let you know.

Get out of the heat and take in a show!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Childhood Is Not For Wimps

The moment when life begins is a point of much contention in modern society. Some would argue that life begins at the moment when a woman says, “Whooh! I think I’m buzzed!” Others draw the point of genesis further along the gestation time-line.
However, no matter when it actually begins, the introduction of life into this world creates an immediate, wholly-involved, symbiotic relationship between you and another human being that will last for at least eighteen years. The roles of child and parent must be clearly defined, rules and boundaries must be set, and consequences must be consistently and immediately established. It is important to begin setting the parameters of this relationship immediately following birth; otherwise, you will never be able to exercise the necessary authority over your parents.
After the birthing process is complete, it is crucial to create a bond with your new parents. This is a relatively easy task to accomplish, but do not underestimate its importance. The warm maternal and paternal feelings you stir in these people now will carry you through years and years of selfish and narcissistic behavior on your part. Eye contact is very important with both mother and father. Even when breast-feeding from the mother unit, you should at least attempt to give a cursory glance toward her face. (If she does not breast-feed, take note of this. You will be able to use this to your advantage later.) In the case of the father-unit, you may also want to try grabbing his thumb. If done successfully, you may actually hear him say something like, “I promise to give you everything you ever want.” If this happens, it is appropriate to smile. Just try not to laugh.
Over the next few months, your new body will be growing and adjusting. Your mobility and strength will be limited. It is important to remember, however, that you are far from helpless. The bond that you have created with the parental units will facilitate most of your needs, wants, and, let’s face it, whims. Your power comes from the appropriate use of your orifices. You all got the handbook already, but let me just remind you of the basic sequence: Cry. Eat. Cry. Barf. Cry. Sleep. Cry. Poop. Cry. Repeat. You will use them individually and, when necessary, simultaneously, in order to systematically strip away the individual personalities, personal hopes, and independent will of your parental units. Notions like “someday writing a book” and “pursuing my music career” are not representative of the kind of thinking that will keep you in Playstations and Skechers, and, therefore, must be eradicated. If you are not the center of their universe, you are not doing your job.
As you begin to explore your facility with speech, be very careful to avoid the consonants of “d” and “m” for as long as possible. The parental units are desperately hoping to hear you utter the words “dada” and “mama,” and the longer you hold out on these two bits of gibberish, the greater your dominion. Helpful hint: give up the “dada” first. This will result in increased attention from the father unit, and perhaps even a repetition of the “everything you ever want” sentiment. (Remember: don’t laugh.) This will also result in increased attention from the mother unit hoping to elicit a “mama” as she questions her maternal abilities and laments her decision not to breast-feed. Do not let the span between the first “dada” and the first “mama” exceed more than three days, however. You will need her to retain at least some measure of sanity for the next few years yet.
As soon as you are feeling steady on your own feet, it is time to begin the basic training phase of the parental units. This should be something that is done at least once daily without fail. There are no “days-off” during this period. Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Halloween – these are working holidays.
First you must establish a “want.” This can be a toy, a piece of candy, a trip to McDonalds - it doesn’t really matter. You will cast it aside, anyway. The point is the “getting,” not the “having.” Once you have decided upon the desired item, you must get it, or more specifically, get the parental units to get it for you by using a variety of techniques.
The first technique is called persistence. You need to wear down their resolve. Be prepared to repeat the phrase, “Please Mom?” indefinitely and with increasing degrees of urgency. Keep count of the number of repetitions required before getting a result. You’ll want to beat that number the next time. You should always be improving.
Another highly effective technique is the tantrum. Ideally, the tantrum should occur in a public place, the more crowded the better. Scream. Drop to the ground. Kick your feet. Throw things. If the parental unit attempts to pick you up or touch you in any way, scream louder. Pull back as though burned, and yell, “Ow! You’re hurting me!” If you really want to see results fast, follow this with a cry for help.
Perhaps the most effective technique is the pout. This affects the guilt receptors in the parental unit’s inferior brain. The more pitiful that you can make yourself look, the better. If you can do it with a straight face, you might even want to use a phrase like, “If you cared about me” or even better, “I thought you loved me.” Practice these in a mirror whenever you get a chance. Just don’t get caught.
If none of these techniques work, then I am sorry to have to tell you that you have been saddled with the unenviable predicament of having what is known in the industry as “responsible parents.” I’m afraid that you have no choice left but to arrange to walk in on them having sex. Make sure to point and ask lots of questions. Again, try not to laugh.
This now concludes the childhood portion of your lessons. The seminars on teen and pre-teen behavioral reinforcement techniques will be provided annually at summer camp. (Make sure to put that on your “want” list.) You may want to begin proactively memorizing phrases like:
“I hate you!”
“Jenny’s mom trusts her!”
“I wish I were never born!”
“I think I’m old enough now for you to tell me I’m adopted.”
“You don’t care about me! You didn’t even breast-feed!”
The childhood years may be a bit trying at times, but don’t give up. Remember who’s in charge. Be firm, be consistent, and give no quarter. Obedient parents do not simply happen overnight.

Friday, July 13, 2007



Sing it!


Spell it!

F-r- double--

No, the long way!



Hello, my plucky little red-hooded wanderers, did I ever stumble across a deal for you.
From Jenny Hecht, President of Next Stage Denver:

Want to see Assassins for free?

Of COURSE you do! Who doesn't want free tickets to a show???

Next Stage is in need of the following volunteer help. Volunteer and you will see the show as our guest to thank you for your time and energy! Please contact Jenny Hecht at
com if you are interested and available.

4-5 folks to help with load-in the weekend of July 28/29
5 folks to help with set painting (time/date TBD once we have volunteers..
.will be before July 28)
2 people to help backstage and work with our amazing S.M., Mary Coan (since these folks cannot watch from the house, they will receive 2 comps for friends/family for use opening weekend)

Thank you in advance for your consideration and your help!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Boo! Hiss!

Sad news. The Diamond Circle Melodrama will come to an end soon, and the future of the Diamond Circle Theatre inside the Strater Hotel is uncertain.
The who? The what? The where?
Yeah, this isn't Denver news. This is a story from the little town of Durango, former stomping grounds of a certain much-adored Big Bad Wolf.
I was never involved in the Diamond Circle Melodrama after I got started in acting, because I typically spent my summers in Summit County during high school. (Ain't divorce nifty, kids?) However, I do remember seeing one of the melodramas when I was a bit younger and thinking, "It's like a living cartoon!" Pretty cool when you're a kid, and a lot of fun when you're an adult as well, this melodrama.
I had my community theatre debut as Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Diamond Circle Theatre when I was sixteen. That was with The Durango Lively Arts. I don't know if they're still putting on shows or not, but that was a fun group. I got my first singing lesson from our Joseph, a nice guy named Aaron Diem. I also got my first taste of being backstage at a real, live theatre. (My high school didn't count. We had a carpeted stage, and they stored wrestling mats in the wings.) When the twenty-something-blonde diva who played Potiphar's wife walked past me backstage in nothing but underwear, heels, and a smile, that was the moment I knew that I wanted to be an actor.
As one might expect, there's a bit of melodrama surrounding the closing of the melodrama, so here and here are two links to more of the story.
Support local theatre, wherever you are. No fooling around here, piglets, these places don't close because their houses are full.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Henry Winners

Congratulations to all Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award winners!
For a full list of winners and Henry night coverage with slide-show, check out John Moore's article.
In particular, I'd like to congratulate Elgin, Kitty, Emily, Tom, Nick, and the ensemble of Dog Sees God.
Good on ya, guys. Good luck finding a place to put your award where it won't creep you out in the dark. (Shudders.) I don't know, CTGers, that "Dancing With the Stars" Disco-Ball monstrosity is actually starting to look pretty good.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Onward and upward

Here I am at post #101 for 2007. (#115 since I first started it. It probably would have been cooler if I'd caught it at the actual #100.) I know some of you are a bit timid about posting comments, but have made your appreciation of this blog known to me in person or via e-mail. Well, you're welcome. And thank you for reading.
I don't know that I've changed the world in the last 100 posts (I fully intend to within the next 100), but I hope I've put a couple of butts in seats that might not have been occupied otherwise. I hope that I've had some part in getting a few "newbies" into audiences. I'd like to think a couple of restaurants have received a patron or two that they might not have otherwise. Maybe somebody saw a movie that they hadn't planned to, or avoided shelling out $10 for a movie that wasn't worth it. (Ghost Rider.)
I have been neglecting music and books of late, but I will work on that. I need to make time to read something other than all of these dry textbooks, anyway. I think musically, though, I'm going to track down some more obscure stuff for you. I'd also like to look into a few more local artists and bands, etc. (If you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments.)
I like to say here that this is "my blog, my rules," but I'd like it to be at least a little bit useful to you all out there. Oh, I'm still going to have my egocentric rants, and I'm still going to refer to you all as "piglets", "piggies", "red-hooded cherubs" and such. That's not going to change. (Big Bad Wolf. It's a theme, kiddies.)
Still, I'm open to suggestions. (I'm also open to ignoring suggestions. Depends on my mood.) If you thought that Ghost Rider was a brilliant cinematic achievement, feel free to tell me so. Then go watch The Guns of Navarone. (I won't even ask you to apologize afterward.) What I do ask is that if you disliked a local theatre production that I recommended, please don't disparage it or the cast in the comments. When it comes to local theatre, I'd like to try to keep things positive.
I will be conscious of making a distinction between shows I have seen that I recommend, and shows that I'm recommending on the basis of cast, company, content, etc., but have not yet seen.
I will also be sure to be clear about why I am recommending a show. Performance Now's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Hunger Artists' Letters To Home are about as dissimilar as two shows can be. I enjoyed them both for very different reasons, so I will endeavor to make my reasons as clear as possible.
I encourage you to use the comments section to keep me posted of upcoming events in local theatre, etc., but if you'd rather not do that, then please e-mail me at (You might want to reference "Big Bad Wolf" or "theatre blog" in the subject line, so I don't mistake you for spam.)
So, onward and upward. Keep reading, keep supporting local theatre wherever you are, and feel free to drop me a line from time to time.
See you here next time, my little bacon bits. (Ooh, I like that one!)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hungry Like The Wolf: Darcy's Irish Pub

Last night (and into this morning) I was caught up in the bachelor party revels for my friend, Kendall Rohach, who will soon be marrying PHAMALy performer and designer, Carol Kelly. I won't tell you where and how the evening ended, because, one, I don't want to violate any of's morality standards, and , two, what happens in south Denver stays in south Denver.
I can tell you, though, without fear of reprisal, that the evening started at one of the groom-to-be's favorite haunts, a cozy little Celtic watering-hole and eatery in the heart of the DTC called Darcy's Irish Pub and Bistro.
Now, as the designated driver of the evening, I cannot comment on the many fine beers and cocktails that Darcy's offers other than to say that my compatriots were certainly enjoying theirs poured and mixed for them by the lovely Shannin behind the bar.
Never one to pass up Irish cuisine, I ordered up a very tasty shepherd's pie made with real sirloin. Three words: Erin go bragh!
My good friend Bob Lovejoy, a devoted PHAMALy volunteer and confirmed herbivore, also found that the menu offered a bit of bia feoilseantach as well. (Vegetarian food.)
Two bites into my shepherd's pie, and I knew that I would be devoting a blog to Darcy's, so I figured that I'd better order a dessert as well. Heidi, our very attentive and beautiful server, recommended the bread pudding. I asked amiable manager, Joe, for a few extra spoons so that I could get a bit of input from my fellow party-goers. He happily obliged. However, the boys didn't have too much to say. They were too busy devouring the thing. The few bites I managed to get for myself receive my highest recommendation, but the true endorsement of Darcy's bread pudding may be that it made an entire bachelor party stop drinking for a solid two minutes. That's a powerful pudding!
I highly recommend Darcy's if you're looking for dinner and drinks in the DTC area or even if you're not in the DTC area. (It's worth the trip.)
I think I'm going to have to disagree with Citysearch's contention that Darcy's is not for kids. We were there from six to nine-thirty on a Saturday night and I saw nothing to suggest that it was inappropriate for wee bairns. I even saw a few kid-friendly items on the menu. After 9:30, what are you doing taking your kids to a pub, anyway?
Citysearch also maintains that Darcy's is not romantic. That I could see, because, as atmospheric as the little pub is, with such fair lasses as Heidi and Shannin walking about, you just might get busted for a wanderin' eye by your lady love. Eyes forward, lads. Eyes forward.
I loved Darcy's. I recommend it. I'll be going back.

By the way, PHAMALy's next production, Urinetown: The Musical, opens July 27th in the Space Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I caught a preview at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival this morning. It's going to be fun.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"It's definitely locked."

It's a big summer for Ray Cooney here in Denver. Spotlight Theatre Company is producing both Cooney's Run For Your Wife as well as its sequel, Caught in the Net throughout the summer, and Miners Alley Playhouse has brought to the stage Cooney's sexy farce Not Now, Darling (co-written with John Chapman.) The latter I had the great fortune of seeing tonight.
Darling is a prime example of the sort of razor-sharp British comedy that I so covet, and Miners Alley's production is absolutely spot-on with its mistaken identity, bawdy situations, scantily-clad women, and escalating comic peril. (Yes, Norman, I said "scantily-clad women." Go on your mother's bridge night.)
It's lots of fun, and there are great performances all-around, though, Christian Mast does manage to steal a few scenes as the unforgettable Arnold Crouch.
This one gets a high recommendation from me, piglets. It's very funny and very sexy. Enjoy!
(A word of advice: get there early and sit in the center section. The side seats are somewhat obstructed by two pillars that are there to, you know, hold up the ceiling.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

We Hold These Truths . . .

I have decided to start a new Independence Day tradition for myself. Every Fourth of July, I will pull my copy of 1776 : The Musical off of my DVD shelf and dust it off for viewing. (Actually, it doesn't gather much dust. I love that show.) Today, though, I can leave my copy on the shelf as Turner Classic Movies has taken it upon itself to show the widescreen, uncut version of the movie as it is meant to be seen. Uncut? Let me re-phrase that. Uncensored. Yes, in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon, having seen a pre-release screening, pressured the producers to remove a few scenes and one entire musical number, "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men," which he felt to be an indictment of the Republican Party and potentially influential in the 1972 elections. The studio caved, and the scenes were removed.
Thankfully, nothing like that could ever happen now. Right? (The scenes are fully restored on the DVD.)
A very book-heavy musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is not as light and airy as many other "Broadway-to-Hollywood" favorites, but I find it highly informative, provocative, and damned entertaining. It is surprisingly accurate for a musical, and what artistic license is taken is largely forgiveable.
By the time you read this, it may be too late to catch the TCM airing, but I encourage you to rent the DVD and watch it this weekend. And, if you should have the opportunity to catch a live production of the show, do so. (Town Hall Arts Center's recent mounting was particularly good.)
Every American should know the story (somewhat dramatized or not) of the beginning of this country, that, for its many flaws, is still the best damn country on this planet. The future is what we make it, and I think a look to the past can give us a clearer perspective on where we ought to go.
Plus, I dare you to not tap your feet to "The Lees of Old Virginia."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Portrait in Courage

If you haven't seen Hunger Artists' Letters To Home yet, I highly encourage you to do so before the show closes on July 7th. As I watched this show, I was moved by the words of the soldiers who traveled away from their loved ones, their motivation to defend an ideal that we hold dear in this country: the ideal of freedom.
With that in mind, please read this story from the New York Times, about a courageous group of young actors right here in America.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Whoah, Speed Racer

We’ve all seen the commercials with that sleek sedan careening around highways and street corners as though on rails. Sure, there’s a little disclaimer on the bottom of the screen: “Professional driver. Do not attempt.” Yeah, whatever. We’re being sold on the fact that the car goes fast, and we want that car. We want to be able to go fast. Zoom-zoom. I loved to drive fast, myself. However, it is important to note that there are consequences to driving fast that I think far outweigh the advantages. This was not an easy lesson for me to learn. I hope that I may make it easier for you.
First, let’s talk about safety. I could throw all kinds of statistics at you from the Safety Belt Commission, the Department of Transportation, and any number of other organizations that have devoted a great deal of time and energy to compiling data about the dangers of fast driving. The fact is, though, I don’t know that those statistics would carry any more weight with you than they ever did with me, which, sadly, wasn’t much. Frankly, I don’t want to overload you with a bunch of numbers at this point anyway. I will have enough numbers for you when I discuss the issue of time. Instead, I would like to appeal to your logic. Is it not safe to say that the driver of a fast-moving vehicle has less time to react to an obstacle in the road than the driver of a slower car? Is it also not safe to say that it takes a car traveling at sixty miles per hour longer to brake to a stop than a car traveling at thirty miles per hour? I would say that, given these two facts alone, there is little room to argue that a speeding driver is in a far more precarious position to himself and others on the road than a driver who is observing the speed limit.
Another fact about speeding that should be more of a deterrent than it actually is, of course, is that fact that it is illegal. One might argue that speed limits ought not be required, but, if your logic could find no flaw in the above paragraph, then you must acknowledge that at least some limitations should be placed on vehicle speed, if not for the safety of the driver herself, at least for the safety of the others on or near the roads.
Does everyone who breaks the speed limit get caught? No, of course not. I violated speed limits for over a decade before I had to deal with the sickening sight of those red and blue flashing lights, and a mustachioed face poking in my driver side window with the question, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Why was I speeding that particular time? I was running a few minutes late for work. As a result of trying to make up those few minutes, I got a pretty substantial fine, my insurance premiums took a mighty jump, and I was late to work that day by much more than a few minutes. While I had managed to elude the consequences of my lead-footed driving for many years, when they caught up with me, they caught up with me in a big way. I remember, too, having the arrogance to think that one ticket every fourteen years wasn’t really such a bad average. That was until I got a second ticket three months later. I’ll admit that the legal argument for slowing down is not quite as compelling as the safety argument. At least, it isn’t so until you actually get caught. However, the consequences at that point are significant.
I guess the question really is, “why do we drive fast?” There are a few out there, myself once included, who choose to drive fast simply because it is more enjoyable. We’re sitting on all of that horsepower, why not use it, right? Well, I’ll answer those speed demons in a moment. Most people, however, break the speed limit because they simply want to get where they are going faster. The question, though, is just how much faster are we getting there?
This is the part where I’m going to bring in the numbers. If you enjoy crunching numbers, please feel free to check my figures. If you are math-phobic, however, then just trust their accuracy based on the fact that I really had hoped that they would have turned out differently myself.
First, let’s break miles per hour down into miles per minute. Few of us in our daily commuting and errand-running actually drive for hours without having to stop for lights and such things.
Thirty-five miles per hour, a city standard, works out to about 0.58 miles per minute. Essentially, if you drive for one mile without stopping, it will take you about one minute and forty-three seconds. Traveling at forty-five miles per hour, that same mile will take you roughly a minute and twenty seconds. Traveling ten miles over the speed limit saves you 23 seconds per mile, provided that you don’t encounter any stop signs, crossing guards, red lights, or slower drivers. So, barring any obstacles, you can save yourself almost a full four minutes on a ten-mile drive to work, and all it may cost you is an accelerated heart rate and a slight spike in your blood pressure. Oh, right, that, and the endangerment of your own life and all of the other drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, and wildlife that you encountered on your trip. Well, golly, that’s such a small price to pay when you consider the terribly inconvenient alternative of leaving five minutes earlier. Sheesh!
Even on a hundred-mile road trip, the difference between traveling sixty-five miles per hour and eighty-five miles per hour amounts to about twenty-two minutes, and that’s only provided that you don’t encounter any slower-moving traffic along the way. How often does that happen? The fact is that the minutes that you could save by speeding don’t amount to very much at all, especially when compared to the lives you can save just by slowing down a little.
Now, for my fellow adrenaline junkies who, to quote Tom Cruise’s Maverick in Top Gun, “have the need. The need for speed!” I have to point out a sobering fact. When we take into account all of the aforementioned factors, we can come to only one conclusion. We are being selfish. This is not simply the “I’m-going-to-play-my-car-stereo-so-loud-that-I-shake-everyone-else’s windows-at-the-stoplight” kind of egocentric selfishness. This is dangerous selfishness. There are other ways to get that adrenaline kick that don’t endanger by-standers.
Still, all of the statistics in the world might not be enough to deter you. Speeding fines could be doubled or even tripled and you might not be dissuaded from your fast-moving ways. The mathematical reality of the futility of speedy driving may have little impact upon you. None of these things much affected me, either. Then about a year ago, I met a beautiful young actress and dancer named Regan who charmed me thoroughly, and whom I now consider a friend. Five years ago, Regan was sitting in the back seat of a car stopped on an L.A. Freeway due to traffic and weather issues. Her car was hit from behind by a driver who was driving too fast to stop in time. Regan now spends her days in a wheelchair. She is one of the strongest, happiest, sexiest, talented, and most enchanting people I have ever met, but she has not walked, run or tap-danced in five years because one driver was too selfish and self-important to drive with the necessary care or diligence. What might my speeding have cost someone else some day? What might yours?
So now I drive a little slower. I listen to the radio and even sometimes sing along. I stick to the right lane, and let those who insist upon driving fast go right on around me and on ahead. (I usually wind up beside them at the next stoplight. I smile at them. They hate that.) I find that it usually doesn’t take me much (or sometimes any) longer to get where I’m going. I leave early when I can, and when I can’t (or don’t), and I find myself running late, then I accept that I am late, and I deal with the consequences of that tardiness. I find that those consequences are far less severe than any of the potential consequences of speeding. I find that I enjoy driving a lot more now than I did before.
Whatever your reasons are for breaking the speed limit, let me encourage you to question them now. Whether you’re trying to beat the clock, beat the system, or just trying to beat that anonymous guy in the Dodge Viper to the next stoplight, take a moment at that stoplight and think about all of the reasons I’ve listed above. Then take another second to think about the beautiful dancer in the wheelchair. Is it really worth it?
Is it?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

You Must See Letters to Home!

I consider all of the shows that I write about here to be noteworthy, and I suggest them as a fun or moving (or both) evening's entertainment. On rare occasions, I come across a show that I consider to be a "must-see." Those of you who were recipients of the e-mail list that preceded this blog saw me rave about The Robber Bridegroom in much the same way you will see me go on about Hunger Artists' Letters to Home. I've mentioned this show twice on the blog already sight-unseen, and I recommended seeing it simply because it seemed to me to be an interesting concept: dramatic readings of letters both to and from American soldiers throughout history.
Well, brace yourselves, piggies, because I'm going to be publicly patting myself on the back for awhile to come for anticipating the quality and depth of this project.
I saw it tonight, and it was truly amazing. The talented young ensemble breathed life into every word of every letter. At times funny, provocative, and even heart-breaking, Letters to Home is the best "reality show" you can see for the price. (Maybe for any price.) You see, other than a segue or two penned by adapters Maggie Cochran (who also directed) and Deni-Marie Warren (who also acted), the words you hear were not written by some Pulitzer-winning playwright. These are letters from actual people to actual people. There is no fiction here. These are not "based on" a true story, they are truth, and most of them are Colorado stories.
This is no way a sleight against the architects of this project at all. The hours that must have been spent locating and researching these letters demonstrates a meticulous and deliberate eye for storytelling.
There is no political agenda in this piece. It is neither pro-war nor anti-war. It simply celebrates the American soldier in his or her many forms. Whether its the tale of a civil-war nurse or of two brothers stationed aboard the same battleship just before World War II, these letters capture the bravery, fears, hopes, and spirit of the young men and women who have for centuries put themselves in harm's way in service of the ideal of freedom.
Maggie Cochran's blocking is fresh, unexpected, and frequently inspired.
Now, as I've mentioned previously, there were two young actors from whom I already expected terrific performances: Jose Zuniga, who had been terrific in both The Robber Bridegroom and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and Colin Ahern, who had delivered an absolutely virtuoso performance as Bri in Joe Egg. My expectations were high of these two performers, and my expectations were met and surpassed. The rest of the ensemble delivered equally brilliant performances, so much so that they deserve to be acknowledged by name: Jeff Simpson, Deni-Marie Warren, Amy Ratliff, Peter Trinh, and Sara Whitney. Remember these names, folks. You'll see them again.
I tend to watch shows as a director, with an eye to the mechanics and structure of a show, and, while I'm not incapable of being drawn into a great performance, it does not happen with great frequency. This is not to diminish the quality or enjoyment of most of the shows I see, I simply have a tendency to keep some observational distance. Not so, though, with Letters to Home. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion, and I jumped to my feet at the curtain call, something I have never done at a "reading."
Folks, whether you are a staunch supporter or of the government or a conscientious objector (both of which are, in my opinion, forms of patriotism) you must see this show.
If you are a history buff or haven't looked at a history book since high school, you must see this show.
You must see this show. It is not simply an important piece of historical theatre, it's also damn good.
Remaining performances are:
Sunday, July 1st at 4 pm
Monday, July 2nd at 7:30 pm (Industry Night)
Tuesday, July 3rd at 7:30 pm
Wednesday, July 4th at 6:00 pm (so you can still go see the fireworks. Something tells me they'll take on a whole new meaning for you after this show.)
Friday, July 6th at 7:30 pm
Saturday, July 7th at 7:30 pm
It's well worth the full-price ticket, but there's also a special "web-only" 2-for-1 discount, which you have to go to the Hunger Artists website to find.
You have got to see this show, and make sure that you bring someone with you. They will thank you for it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mountain Theatre in July, too

I knew I would forget at least one.
More July shows:
Murphy Funkhouser's one-woman show Crazy Bag opens this week at the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge and runs through August 12. It will run in rep first with the July 6 opening of The Hobbit, and then Smell of the Kill (featuring my good friend Jacquelyn Lies, and Denver actresses Mare Trevathan and Trina Magness), which opens July 20 and runs through August 19th. The Hobbit will continue to run with daytime performances through September 2nd. Confused? Me, too. Fortunately there's also a calendar.
On the other end of Summit County, The Lake Dillon Theatre will be presenting two popular and subversive musicals on alternating weekends throughout the summer. Chicago opens June 29th and The Rocky Horror Show opens July 6th. Equally popular, but somewhat less subversive, Forever Plaid will be running on Thursdays only at the Pavilion in nearby Keystone. Fun for the whole family School House Rock, Live! opens at the Quaking Aspen Amphitheatre at Keystone July 5th. You can get more info on all three of these shows here.
Looks like some great shows this summer up the mountain as well as down here in the Front Range area.
As always, if you have shows or info to add, please feel free to use the comments section for that purpose.
Okay, my red-hooded little darlings, that's all for now. I'm going to see Hunger Artists production of Letters to Home on Saturday. Looking forward to it. Maybe I'll see you there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Theatre in July

Here's a partial list of what's coming up in theatre 'round here for July.
- Opening June 29th:
The Avenue's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change - a reprise production of the show that sold to sell-out crowds at Town Hall Arts Center earlier this year, directed by Bob Wells and featuring Megan Van De Hey, Chris Boecx, Seth Caikowski, and Allison Mueller stepping in to take Elizabeth Welch's place, who is bop-bop-bopping away the summer in the Denver Center's Taffettas.
Miners Alley Playhouse's Not Now, Darling
, the hysterical farce by Ray Cooney and John Chapman. M.A.P.'s website hasn't updated as of this writing, so, beyond director Richard Pegg, all I know is that the cast includes Janelle Christie and Linda Suttle and a fellow whom I've not yet met, but Janelle and Linda insist could be my twin (poor bloke) Mathew Ellison. (If you have more info about the cast, friends, please add a comment.)
Opening July 14:
Spotlight's Caught In The Net, the sequel to the wildly popular Run For Your Wife, which is currently running (with a waiting list for seating) through June 30th. Most of the cast of Wife will be reprising their roles in in Net.
Opening July 20th:
For two weekends only, Front Range Musical Theatre presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast, directed by Peter Muller with choreography by Bryan Bell, and starring David Ambroson as the Beast, Bryan Bell as LeFou, and Jim Miller as Lumiere, and lots of other people in lots of other roles. (The cast list on the website is quite literally a list of names, without characters.) Please comment if you have more info.
Opening July 27th:
PHAMALy's much anticipated production of Urinetown: The Musical directed by Steve Wilson and featuring Leonard Barrett as Officer Lockstock, Juliet Villa as Hope Cladwell, Kathleen Traylor as Penelope Pennywise, Don Mauck as Caldwell B. Cladwell, Andrew Caldwell as Bobby Strong, and Jenna Bainbridge as Little Sally.
I'm sure I've missed some shows, too, so if you know of any others, please add the info in the comments.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Update: Joseph adds another show

I just received word that Performance Now's Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be adding a 2pm matinee on Saturday, June 30th. As of this writing, the performance has not been added on the website (but check the link anyway, just in case), so I suggest that you call 303-987-7845 for tickets. These are going to go fast, too, piggies, so you'd better hustle, and take a friend.

Also, Spotlight Theatre Company's Run For Your Wife closes on the 30th. If you haven't seen it, there are few opportunities left, even with the added performance on June 28th. Take a co-worker.

Finally, Hunger Artists opened their Letters to Home readers' theatre production this weekend. It has a brief run (through July 7th), and I think it sounds like an important and timely piece of theatre. I'm planning to go next weekend myself, and I'm inviting as many people as I can.

Support local theatre.